What Does a Criminal Defense Attorney Do?
Technically, it’s possible for individuals to handle their own defense. That may be a good idea in a few situations, such as parking tickets. But in most cases, you need a solid criminal defense attorney to represent you.
There is a good reason that the Sixth Amendment guarantees the right to a lawyer. Without such representation, defendants are literally at the mercy of the court. Additionally, Monroe County prosecutors are usually not interested in attaining justice. They are only interested in convicting the defendant.
Just like surgeons do much more than the actual procedure and preachers do not just talk on Sunday mornings, a Rochester criminal defense attorney has a wide range of jobs related to your criminal case.
First-time criminal defendants learned everything they know about the criminal justice system from TV and movies. So, almost everything they know is wrong. Criminal defense attorneys inform defendants about the process, so they know what to expect.
For example, attorneys often delay criminal cases as long as possible. To many people, these delays are very frustrating. But the extra time gives a Rochester criminal defense attorney more opportunity to prepare. The better prepared your attorney is, the more successful the outcome will be.
There is a non-legal element to client counseling, as well. Many defendants are understandably very fearful about the whole process. Knowing what to expect somewhat eases this fear. Knowing that the attorney has a plan, and is working that plan, calms this fear even more.
Client counseling is an ongoing responsibility. After the case goes to court, Monroe County prosecutors typically offer plea bargain settlements. A pretrial settlement is usually in everyone’s best interests, but not all proposals are fair. A Rochester criminal defense attorney gives clients solid advice in this area.
Investigate the Facts
Until a lawyer investigates the facts, there is no way to tell whether the offer is fair. So, an investigation is a critical component of a solid criminal defense. Some common techniques include:
- Additional Witnesses: Many times, police investigators only interview crime victims and people who voluntarily come forward. A Rochester criminal defense attorney digs deeper and interviews additional witnesses. Even if their stories help the prosecutor’s case, it’s important to speak with these individuals.
- Examining Physical Evidence: Chain of custody is sometimes an issue, and a DWI blood test sample is a good example. This sample must go from the defendant’s body to a police technician to the evidence room to the courtroom. Any gap in the chain of custody may cast a shadow on the evidence’s reliability. Furthermore, in many violent crime cases, prosecutors rely on footprints, tire tracks, clothing fibers, and other CSI-type evidence. In the real world, such “proof” is more science fiction than science fact.
- Questioning Lineups: Live or photo lineups are often an important piece of the puzzle, as well. Usually, only double-blind lineups are reliable. If the test administrator knew the suspect’s identity, the administrator often gives subtle clues to the witness (g., placing the suspect’s photo in the center of a photo lineup).
A Rochester criminal defense attorney does not need to prove the defendant’s innocence. A lawyer must only undermine the facts enough to create reasonable doubt.
Criminal Defense Attorneys and Legal Research
Some defendants are morally guilty, but they are not legally guilty. The distinction is important. Sometimes, the evidence is legally inadmissible. Examples include:
- Failing to timely inform defendants of their Constitutional rights,
- Seizing evidence without a search warrant,
- Illegally profiling certain defendants, and
- A discrepancy between the pleadings and the proof.
Criminal laws change constantly. What was permissible one day may be impermissible the next day, and vice versa. So, an attorney must be more than willing to work. An attorney must also be willing to learn new things.
Resolving Criminal Cases
In TV and movies, emotionally charged trials almost always resolve criminal cases. That’s not true in the real world.
As mentioned, plea bargains resolve most criminal cases. But like all good negotiators, Rochester criminal defense attorneys do not simply recommend the first offer. A plea bargain should reduce both the direct and collateral consequences of a criminal conviction.
Assault cases are a good example. A domestic battery conviction may have significant consequences in family court. Modifying the charges to another kind of assault, even if it is a slightly more serious offense, it may be a good idea in these situations. It is also possible to reduce first or second-degree charges to second or third-degree assault.
Rely on an Experienced Lawyer
Your attorney should be with you from start to finish. For a free consultation with an experienced Rochester criminal defense attorney, contact the Law Office of Frank Ciardi. We routinely handle matters in Monroe County and nearby jurisdictions.